Malaysia’s Health Ministry urges people to get Covid-19 booster shots as China prepares to open borders

Get your booster shots, protect yourselves and your fellow Malaysians.

This is the clear, unequivocal message by Malaysia’s Health Ministry to ensure Malaysians are fully protected against Covid-19 in 2023.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah also urged Malaysians to continue to practice TRIIS (Test, Report, Isolate, Inform and Seek) and advised those with comorbidities to wear masks, especially in crowded places.

“Those with symptoms are also encouraged to wear face masks and conduct Covid-19 self-tests,” he said today.

The Health Ministry’s KKMNow website showed that as at Dec 26, the pick-up rate for the first dose of vaccinations stood at 86.1 per cent (28,119,591 doses) while the second dose stood at 84.3 per cent (27,530,829).

However, the pick-up rate for booster shots was still low, at 49.8 per cent (16,277,062) for Booster 1, and only 1.9 per cent (624,009) for the second booster.

The World Health Organisation last week expressed concerns following a surge of Covid-19 infections in China, which was largely due to Beijing’s relaxation of its zero-Covid policy.

Dr Noor Hisham said although Malaysia had announced it was transitioning to the endemic phase beginning April 1 this year, the country was still gazetted as an area of infection.

He said Malaysian borders have been open to international tourists and tourism activities, while activities in other economic sectors have since seen an uptick.

“Taking into account that Malaysia is at risk of Covid-19 infections from abroad, the Health Ministry will continue to enhance our preparatory and response protocols to face possible surges of infections and deaths due to Covid-19,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

“We have faced this before during the worldwide surge of cases, including in Malaysia, at the height of the Delta variant,” he added.

Besides getting booster shoots to reduce the number of cases, serious infections and deaths, the ministry has also outlined several other steps to address Covid-19. They include strengthening the digitisation management of Covid-19 through FTTIS (Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support) via MySejahtera.

The ministry will also ensure that all Covid-19 Assessment Centres operating physically (at health and community clinics), and online, are prepared to accept patients and the high volume of calls in order to evaluate patients who exhibit symptoms and are positive.

The statement by the Health Ministry today also comes in the wake of China announcing that it was re-opening its borders and abandoning quarantine policies, beginning Jan 8.

The new policy will see a spike in the outbound travel of Chinese citizens and also the cancellation of inbound quarantine measures for international arrivals.

Hundreds of millions of people are also expected to travel across China by road, rail, and air, during the Lunar New Year holiday period next month, in what is dubbed the world’s biggest annual human migration.